Judicum 9

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1 Abiit autem Abimelech filius Jerobaal in Sichem ad fratres matris suæ, et locutus est ad eos, et ad omnem cognationem domus patris matris suæ, dicens :

2 Loquimini ad omnes viros Sichem : Quid vobis est melius, ut dominentur vestri septuaginta viri omnes filii Jerobaal, an ut dominetur unus vir ? simulque considerate quod os vestrum et caro vestra sum.

3 Locutique sunt fratres matris ejus de eo ad omnes viros Sichem universos sermones istos, et inclinaverunt cor eorum post Abimelech, dicentes : Frater noster est.

4 Dederuntque illi septuaginta pondo argenti de fano Baalberit. Qui conduxit sibi ex eo viros inopes et vagos, secutique sunt eum.

5 Et venit in domum patris sui in Ephra, et occidit fratres suos filios Jerobaal septuaginta viros, super lapidem unum : remansitque Joatham filius Jerobaal minimus, et absconditus est.

6 Congregati sunt autem omnes viri Sichem, et universæ familiæ urbis Mello : abieruntque et constituerunt regem Abimelech, juxta quercum quæ stabat in Sichem.

7 Quod cum nuntiatum esset Joatham, ivit, et stetit in vertice montis Garizim : elevataque voce, clamavit, et dixit : Audite me, viri Sichem ; ita audiat vos Deus.

8 Ierunt ligna, ut ungerent super se regem : dixeruntque olivæ : Impera nobis.

9 Quæ respondit : Numquid possum deserere pinguedinem meam, qua et dii utuntur et homines, et venire ut inter ligna promovear ?

10 Dixeruntque ligna ad arborem ficum : Veni, et super nos regnum accipe.

11 Quæ respondit eis : Numquid possum deserere dulcedinem meam, fructusque suavissimos, et ire ut inter cetera ligna promovear ?

12 Locutaque sunt ligna ad vitem : Veni, et impera nobis.

13 Quæ respondit eis : Numquid possum deserere vinum meum, quod lætificat Deum et homines, et inter ligna cetera promoveri ?

14 Dixeruntque omnia ligna ad rhamnum : Veni, et impera super nos.

15 Quæ respondit eis : Si vere me regem vobis constituitis, venite, et sub umbra mea requiescite : si autem non vultis, egrediatur ignis de rhamno, et devoret cedros Libani.

16 Nunc igitur, si recte et absque peccato constituistis super vos regem Abimelech, et bene egistis cum Jerobaal, et cum domo ejus, et reddidistis vicem beneficiis ejus, qui pugnavit pro vobis,

17 et animam suam dedit periculis, ut erueret vos de manu Madian,

18 qui nunc surrexistis contra domum patris mei, et interfecistis filios ejus septuaginta viros super unum lapidem, et constituistis regem Abimelech filium ancillæ ejus super habitatores Sichem, eo quod frater vester sit :

19 si ergo recte et absque vitio egistis cum Jerobaal, et domo ejus, hodie lætamini in Abimelech, et ille lætetur in vobis.

20 Sin autem perverse : egrediatur ignis ex eo, et consumat habitatores Sichem, et oppidum Mello : egrediaturque ignis de viris Sichem, et de oppido Mello, et devoret Abimelech.

21 Quæ cum dixisset, fugit, et abiit in Bera : habitavitque ibi ob metum Abimelech fratris sui.

22 Regnavit itaque Abimelech super Israël tribus annis.

23 Misitque Dominus spiritum pessimum inter Abimelech et habitatores Sichem : qui cœperunt eum detestari,

24 et scelus interfectionis septuaginta filiorum Jerobaal, et effusionem sanguinis eorum conferre in Abimelech fratrem suum, et in ceteros Sichimorum principes, qui eum adjuverant.

25 Posueruntque insidias adversus eum in summitate montium : et dum illius præstolabantur adventum, exercebant latrocinia, agentes prædas de prætereuntibus : nuntiatumque est Abimelech.

26 Venit autem Gaal filius Obed cum fratribus suis, et transivit in Sichimam. Ad cujus adventum erecti habitatores Sichem,

27 egressi sunt in agros, vastantes vineas, uvasque calcantes : et factis cantantium choris, ingressi sunt fanum dei sui, et inter epulas et pocula maledicebant Abimelech,

28 clamante Gaal filio Obed : Quis est Abimelech, et quæ est Sichem, ut serviamus ei ? numquid non est filius Jerobaal, et constituit principem Zebul servum suum super viros Emor patris Sichem ? cur ergo serviemus ei ?

29 utinam daret aliquis populum istum sub manu mea, ut auferrem de medio Abimelech. Dictumque est Abimelech : Congrega exercitus multitudinem, et veni.

30 Zebul enim princeps civitatis, auditis sermonibus Gaal filii Obed, iratus est valde,

31 et misit clam ad Abimelech nuntios, dicens : Ecce Gaal filius Obed venit in Sichimam cum fratribus suis, et oppugnat adversum te civitatem.

32 Surge itaque nocte cum populo qui tecum est, et latita in agro :

33 et primo mane, oriente sole, irrue super civitatem. Illo autem egrediente adversum te cum populo suo, fac ei quod potueris.

34 Surrexit itaque Abimelech cum omni exercitu suo nocte, et tetendit insidias juxta Sichimam in quatuor locis.

35 Egressusque est Gaal filius Obed, et stetit in introitu portæ civitatis. Surrexit autem Abimelech, et omnis exercitus cum eo de insidiarum loco.

36 Cumque vidisset populum Gaal, dixit ad Zebul : Ecce de montibus multitudo descendit. Cui ille respondit : Umbras montium vides quasi capita hominum, et hoc errore deciperis.

37 Rursumque Gaal ait : Ecce populus de umbilico terræ descendit, et unus cuneus venit per viam quæ respicit quercum.

38 Cui dixit Zebul : Ubi est nunc os tuum, quo loquebaris : Quis est Abimelech ut serviamus ei ? nonne hic populus est, quem despiciebas ? egredere, et pugna contra eum.

39 Abiit ergo Gaal, spectante Sichimorum populo, et pugnavit contra Abimelech,

40 qui persecutus est eum fugientem, et in urbem compulit : cecideruntque ex parte ejus plurimi, usque ad portam civitatis.

41 Et Abimelech sedit in Ruma : Zebul autem, Gaal, et socios ejus expulit de urbe, nec in ea passus est commorari.

42 Sequenti ergo die, egressus est populus in campum. Quod cum nuntiatum esset Abimelech,

43 tulit exercitum suum, et divisit in tres turmas, tendens insidias in agris. Vidensque quod egrederetur populus de civitate, surrexit, et irruit in eos

44 cum cuneo suo, oppugnans, et obsidens civitatem : duæ autem turmæ palantes per campum adversarios persequebantur.

45 Porro Abimelech omni die illo oppugnabat urbem : quam cepit, interfectis habitatoribus ejus, ipsaque destructa, ita ut sal in ea dispergeret.

46 Quod cum audissent qui habitabant in turre Sichimorum, ingressi sunt fanum dei sui Berith, ubi fœdus cum eo pepigerant, et ex eo locus nomen acceperat, qui erat munitus valde.

47 Abimelech quoque audiens viros turris Sichimorum pariter conglobatos,

48 ascendit in montem Selmon cum omni populo suo : et arrepta securi, præcidit arboris ramum, impositumque ferens humero, dixit ad socios : Quod me videtis facere, cito facite.

49 Igitur certatim ramos de arboribus præcidentes, sequebantur ducem. Qui circumdantes præsidium, succenderunt : atque ita factum est ut fumo et igne mille homines necarentur, viri pariter et mulieres, habitatorum turris Sichem.

50 Abimelech autem inde proficiscens venit ad oppidum Thebes, quod circumdans obsidebat exercitu.

51 Erat autem turris excelsa in media civitate, ad quam confugerant simul viri ac mulieres, et omnes principes civitatis, clausa firmissime janua, et super turris tectum stantes per propugnacula.

52 Accedensque Abimelech juxta turrim, pugnabat fortiter : et appropinquans ostio, ignem supponere nitebatur :

53 et ecce una mulier fragmen molæ desuper jaciens, illisit capiti Abimelech, et confregit cerebrum ejus.

54 Qui vocavit cito armigerum suum, et ait ad eum : Evagina gladium tuum, et percute me, ne forte dicatur quod a femina interfectus sim. Qui jussa perficiens, interfecit eum.

55 Illoque mortuo, omnes qui cum eo erant de Israël, reversi sunt in sedes suas :

56 et reddidit Deus malum, quod fecerat Abimelech contra patrem suum, interfectis septuaginta fratribus suis.

57 Sichimitis quoque quod operati erant, retributum est, et venit super eos maledictio Joatham filii Jerobaal.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Judicum 9      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Judges 9: Abimelech’s conspiracy, the parable of the trees, Abimelech’s downfall.

This chapter follows the story of Gideon’s many sons; he had seventy sons by his many wives, and also one other son, Abimelech, by a concubine. After Gideon’s death, Abimelech went to the men of Shechem, where his mother’s family lived, and asked them if they would rather be ruled by seventy sons, or by him. The men of Shechem agreed it would be better to have one king, so they gave him seventy pieces of silver from the temple of Baal. Using the silver, Abimelech hired men to come with him, and they killed the seventy sons of Gideon except the youngest, Jotham, who hid. Then they anointed Abimelech king.

When Jotham heard the news, he stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and taunted the men of Shechem with a parable. In his parable, the trees were searching for a king to lead them; they ask the olive, then the fig, then the vine to rule over them. Each refuses, because they do not want to give up their special purpose. Finally, the bramble agrees to lead them, but gives them the choice of either sheltering in its non-existent shade or being consumed by its own fire.

Jotham explained the parable, warning that Abimelech and the men of Shechem would more than likely tear each other down in the end. Then he fled to Beer to escape his brother’s vengeance.

After Abimelech had ruled Israel for three years, the Lord sent an evil spirit to spark ill-will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem. This evil spirit was meant to avenge the killing of Gideon’s seventy sons.

The rest of this chapter describes the city’s descent into chaos, illustrating the various manifestations of evil and falsity through many examples. Robbers were sent to ambush travellers in the mountains, the people of Shechem drunkenly cursed Abimelech in the temple of their god, and the tower of Shechem was burned, killing a thousand hiding in it. Finally, Abimelech lay siege to Thebez, and the people took shelter on the top of a tower there. When he tried to burn that tower, a woman hurled down a millstone to break Abimelech’s skull. In his final moments, Abimelech commanded his armourbearer to kill him with his sword, so that people would not say he was killed by a woman. All of these incidents depict the absolute corruption under Abimelech’s rule.

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The key to understanding this story is that Gideon’s son, Abimelech, is the son of a concubine, not a lawful wife. Spiritually speaking, a concubine stands for a love that has become distorted. A genuine love for someone is a love for sake of that other person, while a distorted love means loving someone for what we can get from them (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Love and Wisdom 271[2], on the love of dominating for the sake of self-love).

The references to Gideon’s seventy sons stand for the enormity of Abimelech’s wrongdoing. The number ‘seven’ stands for something fully worked through, and seventy even more so.

Jotham’s parable presents three levels of pure love: the love of the Lord (the olive with its fragrant oil), the love of truth (the vine with its rich wine), and the love of use (the fig with its abundant seeds). The bramble, with its painful grip, stands for a love of evil and falsity (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 273).

The evil spirit sent by the Lord seems to show that God was punishing his own people, but that is only how things appear (Arcana Caelestia 1838). When we look deeper, we will realize that we are punished by our own evil actions, for evil breeds more evil and there is no rest for the wicked (see Isaiah 48:22). In regeneration, the process of breaking down the power of evil and false states in ourselves is called “vastation”. Once we have done the grueling work to minimize these influences over us, we can fully appreciate the joys of spiritual life (Arcana Caelestia 2694[2]).

Spiritually, an ambush depicts the way hell attacks our minds: without warning. Drunkenness and cursing a former ally stands for the abandonment of all values and integrity. The tower represents the pride which rises up in self-love and love of dominance, and beyond that, Abimelech’s aversion to being killed by a woman stands for the rejection of all that is good and true. Her millstone grinds corn to make it edible, in the same way that we must process truths to put them to use (see Swedenborg’s work, Apocalypse Explained 1182).

This powerful chapter shows the descent of evil into greater evils, until they become so consuming they have no vestige of good left, and no recognition of truth remaining. The final two verses state: “Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers. And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Gideon.”

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